Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Jan.3: The Power of Choosing Now

To be alive is to have choices. Very often we take the choice of refusing to acknowledge that we have choices, but that is a choice. We just don’t know we are making it. This is the big mystery of awareness. When we are not aware, by definition, we are not aware that we aren’t aware. When we are aware, life seems full and rich, as if doubled, with one part of us going about our business and another part thrilled and delighted and intrigued to be watching and aware of what’s going on.

It could be breathing in, breathing out. It could be sounds coming in our ears from a friend’s voice. It could be sounds coming in our ears from someone saying something so-called “critical.” This is when awareness gets pretty amazing. The conditioned part of our minds, the little robot, wants to freak out when someone says we are a jerk, or are stupid, or are selfish. But the aware part can hear the actual tone of the voice, can see the face, can sense our own body and emotions as we hear these vibrations of the air molecules that come to us as a message we are supposed to be freaking over. In the present though, it’s just words. In the present, this is another person with an idea of the world that includes calling us a jerk or a fool or worse.

If our image of ourselves is crucial, we freak. If our awareness of ourselves in the present is strong, we are so happy to be alive and aware, that we can treat this just the way we would a novel or a movie where one character rips into another. We can even feel happy, as we notice we aren’t freaking out, because this is a big reason why they are saying their trash, to get to us. When we don’t react, we jam up the robot vs. robot fight fame. This is the beginning of real freedom, when the stakes get high, when someone is not that happy with us. Then we can wise up quickly. Our job isn’t being perfect in their eyes.

We take another choice: to be aware of them and our own breathing and sensing as they rip into us. We get interested in this movie, this movie now. We start to notice all sorts of things we usually are blind to when the arguing begins.

Such as:

Are they having a good time as they go into negative mode? Are they aware of the wonder of being alive? Probably not. We might look at their tight and tense face, and hear their strained and hurt/angry/judgmental voice and feel relief that we aren’t them, as well as compassion for the suffering they are putting themselves through. They want something, that they don’t even know they want. Recognition, love, attention, to be smart, to be right. Whatever it is, if we look at them in the moment, we can see that they are not happy now.

If they aren’t happy, this is one of the choices open to us when we are in the present:: to think about what we could do to make them happier. This seems strange, doesn’t it, the idea of someone calling us a jerk or a fool and we are present enough to see that they aren’t happy right now. Furthermore, we might notice something else on top of their not being happy. We might notice that they are right, and we can be present enough to laugh and agree, ‘Sure, you’re right, sometimes I am a jerk. The time you are talking about, yes, I was a fool.’

Then you can ask an important question. ‘What do you want now?’ Often the other will just repeat whatever they think your crime was. And you can take the choice to bring the affair into the present. ‘Okay, okay. I was wrong, bad, stupid, selfish. But that was then. Now I’m listening to you. Now I can see you are unhappy. What do you want to do now?’

The past is done.

That is one of the choices we can take when we are awake to the present, the choice to bring a conflict into the present where something can be done to make it a situation that isn’t a conflict.

What do you want now?

This is a good question to ask someone who is upset with us. This is a good question to ask ourselves when we are upset with ourselves. If the answer goes to craziness, the wish that we were different in the past, we can nod. (The craziness is not that only crazy people do this. Everyone suffers immensely with the wish to rewrite the past. The craziness is failing to recognize, after all these years, that the past cannot be rewritten.)

“What do you want now?” Maybe the other person will have a rare moment of honesty and admit they want to fight some more. Then we can all laugh and get on with creating a mutually satisfying present together. Maybe they will admit, they want you to listen to them, or agree with them, or help them not feel so bad. Whatever it is, we can listen with ears that hear and eyes that see. We can breathe. We can be present. We can answer their requests, either yes or no, not from a robot of defensiveness, but from a human being of awareness.

This is a great choice to make. The choice to forgo a conditioned robot that wants to run our show and to be instead an aware and present being. A real human being. Nice.

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